Nuclear technologies can tackle food safety problems, believe Kazakh scientists, who developed a unique hydrogel using them. Its task is to retain moisture and fertilizers in the soil. As a result, it will be possible to increase crop yields by 35 percent in just one season. According to the scientists, this is a real help for farmers in the arid regions of the country.
“In addition to reducing water consumption, we also lower the environmental footprint, as less mineral fertilizers are used. We also use biofertilizers and phytopreparations, which will allow us to replace pesticides with purely natural components. Hydrogel can not only save and accumulate water, but also apply mineral fertilizers in small increments, thereby reducing the negative impact on the environment,” scientist and project author Yerlan Zhatkanbayev explained.
The hydrogel is produced in the form of a dry powder, and then diluted with water and fertilizers. On average, about 50 kilograms of hydrogel are needed per hectare of land. Its one gram alone is able to absorb about 200 milliliters of liquid. Such a gel decomposes in the soil gradually, evenly releasing the fertilizer. Thus, the farmers’ costs can be reduced significantly. In addition, after full application, the hydrogel can last up to three or five years. Its areas of application are also extensive.
“So, we have commercialized the technology and launched the production. The company’s goal is not only the production of hydrogels. We might also launch the production of hydrogel-based products that will be used in agriculture and forestry. In general, the scope of hydrogel application is quite large. We have already conducted the field experiments together with Kazakh farmers. From now on, we will observe its effect on harvesting. We first need to show the results in the fields for bringing it into the market,” said director of hydrogel manufacturing company Alibek Nurkenev.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, to feed the world population, it is necessary to increase food production by 70 percent by 2050. Scientists say that this requires a more active and widespread application of new scientific methods of production in the agricultural sector.